12 July 2010

Attacked for calling my art "Gypsy Soul"

Yes, that's right.... I titled an atc "Gypsy Soul" with absolutely NO intent to cause insult to anyone. I was ignorant that the word gypsy had negative connotations associated with it. I believed the gypsy to be a free soul, wandering without constraints, free spirited, alive, happy, dancing in the rain - all my attachments to the word are positive :))

It seems some people cannot help themselves by thrusting their opinions upon other people, regardless whether it is asked for or not.

On my etsy site, I received a huge email outlining the definition of the word gypsy and my ignorance to it.
The email had over 15 Links, that the writer expected me to visit and educate myself by!

I responded by saying that I was sorry I didn't realise the word was negative and that I did not intend the title of my art to insult anyone.

I then received this email back:

Thank you for your response, but I don't think you quite understand what I am saying here. Your interpretation of the life of a gypsy as positive and carefree *IS* the problem, because in real life Romani people are horrifically persecuted. It is not my opinion of myself that is the issue.

If you bothered to read the links I supplied, you'd see why your misuse of this term is offensive. Your interpretation of a gypsy as some sort of free-spirited, nomadic person makes a joke out of a persecuted minority. Someday, I hope you come to understand my reasons for contacting you. Unfortunately, like many who use this word in such an inappropriate and offensive manner, you are refusing to see the truth about what a 'gypsy' really is, because that would mean letting go of the romantic, fairytale image you hold of my people. Even if you disagree or refuse to change the name of your piece, you could at least show some respect for the culture you are USING and appropriating, and read the links I've sent. I think you'd be rather surprised by the reality of the situation for gypsies around the world.

People think of gypsies as free-spirited, nomadic people but what they do not understand is that Romani people didn't have a choice. They moved (and still do) around because no one wants them there. I would hardly call that a 'free' life. Gypsies actually exist, and their lives are so far from the fantasy image people conjure up when they hear the word 'gypsy', with it's magical and bohemian, free-spirited connotations, that this is WHY your use of the word is offensive.

If you step back, and don't take this so personally, I really believe you will be able to see why it is so offensive. Read the links, even just a few, and you will understand a bit better where I am coming from.

This is not personal - I am not attacking your art. You are very talented. I am pointing out your use of a racial slur and your propagation of a stereotype about a persecuted minority. Of course, there are racial slurs for every ethnic group, however, few are as persecuted and hated like the Romani people. It is not that it differs from *MY* meaning... it differs from the *TRUTH*.

I then received another email............ Here is a direct cut & paste from my ETSY inbox:

You've Got a Message From kalishey on Etsy

** Do NOT reply directly to this email.**

SUBJECT: Gypsy Soul, listing #28944199

I'll put this very clearly: YOU ARE USING A RACIAL SLUR FOR MY PEOPLE TO SELL YOUR PRODUCTS. You are making money off of other people's suffering, whether you want to admit it or not, and clearly, you do not. Almost every one of your items on this site has the word 'gypsy' in the title. Why don't you investigate your OWN heritage and keep your grubby fingers out of mine?

Something else for you to think about... when you put your art out there, and USE A RACIAL SLUR, however "harmless" you believe it to be, YOU INVITE CRITICISM.

People who don't know the true meaning of the word and use it are ignorant. People like YOU, who know the truth and use it anyway, are RACIST.


  1. Hi Lorri,

    I just sent you a private email. :)


    -- Birgit

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. I deleted a repeat of my comment...

  4. Oh, my, Lorri. So sad to read of this drama. I love your art and have also done gypsy pieces with no desire to persecute the Romanians. I never even realized there were gypsies in Romania ~~ but we know now, lol! Big (((HUGS)) to you, and wishes for more terrific creativity!

  5. Methinks this 'gypsy' needs to take their own advice - step back and not take it so personally. This is just craziness. And I'm sorry that you had to be on the receiving end. Throwing yourself into the world of blogging does invite some unwanted stuff that's for sure.

  6. OK, I do understand in some way it may be offensive to an individual (just like an "eskimo soul" or "indian soul" or "sámi soul" might be to some individual. But people should realize that when you name a beautiful piece of art, it has no mean intensions in the mind of the name giver.

    Being racist is something totally different and when you come accross a racits act you will definitely notice it.

    If you had an ugly image or an image showing suffering and you gave the same name... then I could start doupting what you had in mind when you named the image! Let's make a test by making art and naming each image after some ethnic group? ;-)

    This one is a beautiful image and no-one should be offended by it. I'm aware of this specific ethnic group's situation here in Europe, but sadly the attitude of the person who sent the mail doesn't help anyone correct their attitudes towards them.

    If you're not free to name your art without asking others first, then where's the freedon of art anyway?

  7. Oh my. I just learned myself about "gypsy" and "eskimo" and now I'm afraid of saying anything about anyone. I know positively that you had no intention of hurting anyone.

  8. I too use the term gypsy in some of my art..and to describe my own eclectic cottagey syle...gypsy cottage style. I am pretty sure that the term gypsy has a far broader definition than describing specifically one people group. Even IF the origin of the word ONCE referred to a specific people group...words and meanings morph, grow, change over time. In each definition I just looked up gypsy can also refer to a general wanderer...Also, there were/ are gypsies in many different countries of the globe...not just Romania. your piece and your art are beautiful. I would hope that this person doesn't plan on attacking every artist using this term in the work...it is actually a popular concept among altered artists! I would hope instead the choose to grow and change...kind of like the definition of the word has over time.your piece and your art are beautiful, please don't let this experience hinder your creative spirit!!

  9. Heather, the ethnic group is correctly called "the Romani" (and not gypsy), I guess that's what the original writer was trying to say, even though it's easy to get confused as the place where they face more problems nowadays happens to be Romania. ;-) So The Romani peoples exist all over the globe in the modern world, that's true.

  10. My first instinct is to say I hope you turned in this hateful email to Etsy and get this person off of there so they cannot threaten other artists or yourself again and also to tell them to go fly a kite. But then I thought for a moment... Truly in art wouldn't you rather invoke a strong feeling from your artwork than one of indifference?

    This world is fast becoming too quick with their politically correctness that we are stepping all over each others toes while trying not to step on peoples toes! I for one think it is ridiculous and you have to remember what our parents taught us... you can please some of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time. Your piece is art and you have every right to name it no matter what someone else thinks. It's their problem.

    I've stopped worrying about what other people think or say, but I'm no fool. In this day of computers you can sabotage someone's life with a few key strokes which is why I remain anonymous.

    I think your work is lovely. But really, who cares what I think, right? You shouldn't. Just keep pouring out your soul through your art. There will always be nay sayers.

  11. wow, what an asshat that etsy user is. it's a lovely piece.

  12. Hi Lorri.
    Being of Romani Descent myself (my nan was a true Romani and lived to be 101 years old )
    I am horrified how this person has behaved towards you.
    I certaimly would not let this persons attitude worry you and continue to use the word Gypsy whenever you want in your art work and i know my Nan would have told you the same thing.
    Love ya loads.
    Rob xxx

  13. Wow, lorri ~ like everyone here, I was shocked to read such a strong, negative reaction to the use of the word Gypsy as it was used to describe your beautiful art piece. Although I'm aware of the plight throughout history - your post prompted me to do some reading on the internet and naturally, I was shocked and saddened to learn how prevelent the Romani people's problems still are today! And it's personal... a branch of my husband's family is Romani on his father's side. MY MARRIED NAME, Cook, is an americanized version of the Romanian surname Coca!

    We're all clear that this woman has many, more serious issues that contribute to her getting so worked up as to attack someone about their ETSY DESCRIPTIONS. It was frightening to sense the agression in her tone and I agree that she should not be allowed to keep an active account.

    All-in-all, I hope you will soon forget about this and I also hope that she is able to find peace within herself and with those around her. I'm very glad you decided to share this so that, if we choose to, your readers can become further enlightened and made more aware of the pain and struggles of others.

    I love you, sweet SOS <3

  14. While I just hate all the negativity that has erupted over your unknowing use of a slur, I love your free spirit art. The romani have been more persecuted than the jews in the recent(WWII) holocast purges and are currently the focus of proposals to implant tracking devices and tatooing in Italy. Their children are taken from them and treated much the same as the europeans have treated our native americans - even in canada. These horrible activities continue. Perhaps in another hundred years the word will be less inflammatory. I can only hope.

    Please try to understand those who lash out are trying to bring their oppressed status to light - remember the outrage over the use of the 'n' word? These days you can probably get away with 'pickaninny', but you'd probably get just as much heated reaction from 'albino' or 'slow'.

    While being 'politically correct' has been taken to the extreme in the u.s., there is still a need to be aware of broader issues in the world and to be sensitive when we can.

    And if after research you feel using a term in or as a title is what you want to convey, then go for it. It is a free world and free informed thought should be encouraged.

  15. OMG...people in this world need to ligthen up a little. Life is to short to take everything so serious. Freedom of speech. Do as you please because you cannot and will not be able to please everyone in life. Sending lots of love your way and thanking you for sharing your art and personal life with us.

  16. Amazing that people have to project all their shadows on you. I have Jewish ancestry who were persecuted along with Gypsies and if I saw an art piece that portrayed a Jewish person in a way that was beautiful and light, I wouldn't go off half-cocked. Every culture has been persecuted at one time or another, this is just ridiculous and I feel very sorry for the people who were so offended by your gorgeous art.

  17. Thank you all for your support and comments. It was quite a learning curve! :)
    I know my heart is pure, that I meant NO insult or slur to anyone and that's all that matters xoxo

  18. And if she were an atheist would she admonish all the Etsy users who create religious works of art or name their pieces with the word "heaven" in the title?

    It must really be hard for her, going through each day with thin skin and a chip on her shoulder.
    If you use the word "woman" in your title....egads! there are women persecuted in every culture daily.
    What about the word 'child"....don't you know child abuse is rampant?
    Don't dare use the word "dog"...the shelters are full of them.
    One of the definitions for "Gypsy" IS the way you are portraying your piece. A nomadic soul, moving from place to place.
    FYI, I LOVE Gypsy moths.
    yeah, guess I'm a racist...more like an equal opportunity offender. And if that offends anyone....good.

    I am sick of all these self righteous assholes.
    Keep your word politics out of my 1st amendment mouth.

  19. I agree with littlepurpleroom and hope this person will just leave you alone. Geez!


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